1. a piece of a substance that has a regular shape with many sides and is formed when the substance becomes solid
2. a clear rock that looks like glass, especially quartz
2a. a piece of crystal used as a jewel
3. clear glass of very good quality
Origin and usage
The word crystal came into Late Old English from an Old French word ‘cristal’ meaning ice or a mineral that looks like ice. The French word came ultimately from the Latin ‘crystallum’ which in turn came from a Greek word meaning ice or crystal. The first, chemistry-related meaning above dates from the early 17th century, an age of great scientific progress in Europe.
Crystal is often used to refer to a type of very clear, high quality glass. This type of crystal is used to make objects such as drinking glasses and decanters but also chandeliers and other decorative items. This is the meaning of the word in the name of the English football club Crystal Palace F.C. who take their name from an actual building made of glass.
The Crystal Palace was built of iron and plate glass in London’s Hyde Park to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. The building was subsequently moved to an area of South London called Penge Common where it stood on a hill until it was destroyed by fire in November 1936. The residential area near the building was renamed Crystal Palace in its honour and the stadium in the surrounding park was for some years the home of the football team that still bears its name.
“I’m not in the business of reading tea leaves. I don’t have a crystal ball.”
“Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole.”
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)